All that we do for God is idolatry (God needs nothing done for Him, nor are we capable of doing anything without Him), all that we do from God is righteousness. Not human righteousness (which God refers to as being like used menstrual cloth [Isaiah 64:6]) but the righteousness of God.
As is the case with all of Hebrew Scripture, there are no chapter breaks in the scroll of the 12 Prophets in which Hosea is located. It’s important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter:
“17 He has cast them off, rejected them My Judge/God, they have not listened, received, comprehended Him; And they have become retreating wanderers in the nations.”
1Gefen bokeik A vine is empty, it is Yisrael; periy fruit yeshaveh-lo He produces for himself. Kerov According to the abundance lefiryo of his fruit hirbah he has increased lamizbechot his altars; ketov due to the goodness leartzo of the land heiytiyvu matzeivot the memorial pillars/idols were made better.
This verse emphasises the idolatrous practices of Israel (northern kingdom) in relationship to their successful grape harvests (corresponding to the appointed time of Sukkot [September-October]).
The tribes of the north had, as we have already seen, been giving credit for their successful harvests to false gods of fertility rather than to YHVH their Provider. The common grace of God that allows all human beings to continue to exist in the sin affected creation is extended for a time unto repentance, however, where there is no repentance punishment is applied to provoke it, for the good of creation. In this case punishment will come upon the northern tribes so as to provoke repentance and position all Israel (including Judah and Benjamin) to become a light to the nations through the King Messiah Yeshua.
The vine is often used as a metaphor for the people of Israel, cared for by the Master Vine Dresser HaShem (Deut. 32:32; Psalm. 80:8-11; Isaiah 5:1; Jer. 2:21; John. 15:1).
“You removed a vine from Egypt (Double distress); You drove out the goyim (nations other than Israel) and planted it. You cleared the way before it, and it took deep root and filled the land (of Israel).” -Tehilim (Psalms) 80:8-9 (Authors translation)
“A vine is empty, it is Israel” A vine devoid of fruit is worthless. At the end of the fruiting season it’s severely pruned in order to provoke fruiting in the future. The ground must also be addressed to ensure drainage and rainfall mitigated so as to cause stress to the vine in order to promote fruiting. All this God will enact toward Israel. The irony of this first phrase in 10:1 is palpable as we read of Israel’s fruitfulness toward other gods.
God is conveying in the prophet the reality that fruit alone is not evidence of a healthy vine, rather good fruit is. “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-23) refers to the nature of the fruit and not the appearance of it. Yeshua further illuminates this explaining that even acts of “ministry” (fruit) can be camouflage for lawlessness. He teaches that His intimate knowledge (relationship) with us is the defining factor and not the action or fruit in and of itself. This is a sobering challenge to believers. Speaking in His Name is not the same as being in Him. Good fruit is that which is the product of a motivation to glorify God, whereas fruit that appears good but is in fact ungodly, is born of a motivation to glorify self.
“15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Therefore, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruit. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Adonay, Adonay’ will enter the kingdom of the heavens, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in the heavens. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Adonay, Adonay, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your Name cast out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS (PSALMS 6:9).’” -Mattisiyahu 7:15-23
This first clause can also be seen as prophetic of what is to come, that being the Assyrian invasion and the removal of the fruit of Israel by the armies of her enemies so that her vine is left empty.
“Israel resembles a vine that casts off all its good fruit. So did they forsake Me, Who is the good and fitting fruit for them.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:1
“fruit He produces for himself.” Idolatry finds a willing companion in the selfishness of humanity. In fact, all sin is the progeny of self-worship. Satan acted on his self-worship at the inception of sin (which is a decision of the will of a created being). This is why Rav Shaul teaches in the New Testament that “The love of worldly wealth is the root of all evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10). The Greek text uses the definite article “ho” which properly translates “the root” and not “a root” as many misleading English translations convey. What is “the love of worldly wealth”? It is of course the love of something other than God. This by definition is idolatry. We notice of course that the result of self-worship is self-harm.
“According to the abundance of his fruit he has increased his altars; due to the goodness of the land the memorial pillars/idols were made better.” In and of themselves “memorial pillars and altars” are not idolatrous (Exodus 24:4-5). The qualifying aspect of idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone other than YHVH (Exodus 20:5). The only exception is where an object depicts a known deity, in which case it is an idol by nature according to the identity of the one it depicts. In the case of the present text the pillars were erected in memory of false gods and those gods were being credited with the fruitfulness of the harvest.
“When I increased their good, they increased for the altars When I lavished good upon them, they made many calves for the altars. Another explanation Israel is a plundered vine; the produce of their deeds brought it about to them. פְּרִי יְשַׁוֶּה לוֹ means ‘will avail them’ to be plundered, for they made the altars and availed their nation for evil. This is the wording of the Targum.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:1
2 Chalak Divided, slippery, deceitful libam is their inner being (core, heart); now ye’shamu they suffer for their offence. Hu He (The Lord) ya’arof will break the neck of mizbechotam their altars, yeshoded violently ruin matzeivotam their memorial pillars/idols.
“Divided, slippery, deceitful is their inner being (core, heart)” The meaning of the Hebrew “chalak” illuminates the demise of the inner person through sin, and the phrasing addresses the “heart, core being, inner person” of collective Israel (northern tribes) by using the plural “libam”. When our inner being is divided, undecided, self-deceiving, we become the authors of our own demise.
“Now they suffer for their offence.” This can also be understood to mean that “they suffer because of their offense”. Their suffering is a result of their “divided, slippery, deceitful inner being”. A wilful condition.
“He (The Lord) will break the neck of their altars, violently ruin their memorial pillars/idols.” The Hebrew “ya’arof” is used of the breaking of an animals neck for sacrifice. The prophet is saying that HaShem will do to the altars that which has been done to the animals placed upon them.
3 Kiy For now yomeru they say, ‘Eiyn melekh lanu We have no king, Kiy For lo yareinu we do not fear et the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord. Ve’hamelekh And the king, mah-ya’aseh lanu what does he do for us?’”
“For now they say, ‘We have no king, For we do not fear the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord. And the king, what does he do for us?’” Although rebellion and the overthrow of kings was prevalent among the northern tribes at this time (2 Kings 15:30), it is not the then king of the north that is being referred to here but YHVH the King of all. The northern kingdom had historically rejected the line of Davidic kingship and had since rejected YHVH as King.
The northern tribes say “We have no king, we do not fear YHVH (Mercy).” Ironically, as a result of their sin they will be left devoid of their human kingship and will suffer under the oppression of foreign kings, so they’re correct in saying “We have no king”.
“And the king, what does he do for us?” This is a further insult aimed at YHVH. These foolish words confirm what the prophet’s indictment denotes, that the northern tribes consider the success of their harvest to be due to their own efforts and the help of false gods (who are not gods at all), and not the work of YHVH.
4 Diberu They speak devariym words, essences, things, alot taking oaths shav falsely karot cutting beriyt covenants; ufarach and sprouting forth karosh venom (because of, like, associated with the head), noxious weeds mishpat as judgment al upon talmeiy the furrows of saday the field.
“They speak words, essences, things, taking oaths falsely cutting covenants;” Both the kings and the people of the north were making oaths in the names of false gods and or in syncretistic rites combining worship of false gods with that of YHVH. Additionally, the kings of the north had cut covenants with foreign powers, paying tribute to them.
“sprouting forth venom, noxious weeds as judgment upon the furrows of the field.” This ambiguous phrasing conveys the ideas of both the false poisonous judgement born of idolatry and the judgement that comes back on the one who made it. In short, their own noxious assertions and actions seeded poison in the furrows of their ploughed fields, physically and metaphorically.
The prophet Amos, a contemporary of Hosea says something similar:
“Do horses run on rocks?
Or does one ]plow with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into poison,
And the fruit of righteousness into noxious weeds,” -Amos 6:12 (Author’s translation)
“swearing falsely Heb. אָלוֹתשָוְא, swearing falsely. אָלוֹת is, in construction, like כָּרֹת, a present tense. forming a covenant with pagan worship. Therefore, judgment of torments and retribution shall spring up upon them… the furrows Heb. תַּלְמֵי. The furrow of a plowshare is called תֶּלֶם. Another explanation: on the furrows of the field where they erect their altars, as it is said (below 12:12): “like heaps on the furrows of the field.” There the judgment for their iniquity shall spring up on them. Another explanation: swearing falsely Every covenant they form with one another they break. and...shall spring up like hemlock which springs up on the furrows of the field, which is a bitter grass, so do their judgments spring up and bitterness grows for the poor and needy. Amos, too, says: (6:12) “For you have turned judgment into hemlock.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:4
5 Le’eglot For the calves of Beit Aven (Beth-aven, House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) yaguru shechan Shomeron the inhabitants of Samaria will be afraid. Kiy For aval its people will mourn alayv amo over it, uchemarayv and its self-macerated (idolatrous) priests alayv yagilu will tremble over it, al-kevodo over its glory, kiy because galah mimenu it (the glory) has departed from it.
“For the calves of Beth-aven, House of wickedness the inhabitants of Samaria will be afraid.” Invasion is imminent, the day is near when the residents of the northern capital Samaria will tremble in fear as the Assyrians invaders first take the other tribes of the north and then conclude their invasion by taking Samaria and toppling the calf idols. The qualifying phrase “The calves of” confirms the assertion that Beiyt-Aven and Beiyt-El are synonymous, given that the two calf idols of Jeroboam were located at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:26-30).
“Beit-Aven” (House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) is a sarcastic way of referring to Bethel (House of God)[Talmud], and or a place very close to Bethel (Joshua 7:2), it was a main centre of northern apostate worship located in the territory of Ephraim/Benjamin. A place that has a strong connection to both the physical and spiritual journeys of the Patriarchs and in particularly to Jacob, who became Israel. It was on the border of the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (according to the interpretation that equates it to Bethel it is technically located in the territory of Benjamin to the east of the border between the two territories).
It seems likely, given Hosea 4:15, that Beth Aven was considered to be part of the territory of Ephraim (northern tribes):
“Judah must not become an offender in the Gilgal; and don’t go into to Beth-Aven” -Hosea 4:15
“For its people will mourn over it, and its self-macerated (idolatrous) priests will tremble over it, over its glory, because it has departed from it.” “It” refers to the calf idol. The Hebrew used to describe the priests is not the common term “kohen” but rather a diminished term “kamar” which is essentially an ascetic description of the named party. “Kamar” means tender, shrunken, macerated, hot. In short it is a metaphor denoting an idolatrous priest, an illegitimate spiritual guide.
The glory of the calf god will literally depart from Samaria and be carried away into exile.
Seder Olam Rabba records that Tiglathpileser king of Assyria came and took away the golden calf in Dan in the twentieth year of Pekah king of Israel; and a subsequent king of Assyria (Shalmaneser) came in the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Israel and took away the golden calf at Bethel:” ref. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 22. p. 60, 61.
6 Gam Also oto it will le’ashur be taken to Assyria (a step) yuval carried minchah as an offering lemelekh Yarev to King Jareb (contender) alt. to a king of contention; Efrayim (doubly blessed) yikach will be received veyeivosh and ashamed, Yisrael mei’atzato from his own counsel.
“Also it will be taken to Assyria (a step) carried as an offering to King Jareb (contender) alt. to a king of contention;” Once again “it” refers to the calf idol. It is said to become an offering to a king/ruler of Assyria. This makes a mockery of its deity. Gods are offered to, they are not made an offering of.
Rashi says that “Yareb” is another name for Sennacherib.
“Efrayim (doubly blessed) will be received and ashamed, Yisrael from his own counsel.” The kings of the north will be received into exile and thus the kingship of the northern tribes will be no more. This agrees with traditional rabbinic interpretation.
“Ephraim shall take shame Heb. בָּשְׁנָה. Jeroboam, who was from the tribe of Ephraim, shall take shame for himself, that he erected this calf for a deity… and Israel shall be ashamed of that counsel that they took counsel to make them, as it is said (1 Kings 12:28) “The king took counsel and made two golden calves.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:6
7 Nidmeh Shomeron malcah Cut off, left silent will be Samaria without a kingship, queen, her king, keketzef like a splintered twig (wrath) al-peneiy-mayim on the face of the waters.
Samaria, as capital of the northern tribes, here represents all the tribes and the authority over them. The kingship of the northern tribes is to be ended permanently.
“like a splintered twig on the face of the water” This is a metaphor alluding to the temporal nature of human power born of fallen motivations which manifest idolatry. All that is idolatrous will become like worthless flotsam washed away by the punishing waters of HaShem.
“The king of Samaria is silenced Heb. נִדְמֶה. The king of Samaria is silenced, and he is like foam on the surface of the water, which is eskoume (ecume) in Old French.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:7
8 Venishmedu And destroyed are bamot the high places of aven (wickedness, trouble, idolatry), chatat the sinful, missing the mark of Yisrael; kotz thorn vedardar and thistle ya’aleh will come up al-mizbechotam on their altars; veameru and they will say lehariym to the mountains, “Kasunu Conceal us!” velagevaot And to the hills, “niflu aleiynu Fall on us!”
“And destroyed are the high places of aven (wickedness, trouble, idolatry)” This refers to the high places of Bethel according to Rashi. While Iben Ezra understands this to refer to the deaths of those who “owned” or were responsible for the upkeep of the calf idols.
“the sinful, missing the mark of Yisrael; thorn and thistle will come up on their altars;” The altars will be left destroyed and their remnants will be untouched, thus they will be overgrown by fruitless weeds such as thorns and thistles so that anyone who touches them will be pierced by barbs. This is the counterpoint to the fruitfulness of idolatry described in verse 1. This has a startling correlation to the teaching of Yeshua regarding the fruit of vines and the fruitlessness of thorns:
“16 You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Therefore, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” -Matthew 7:16-19
“and they will say to the mountains, “Conceal us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!” Sadly this is not a cry of repentance but one seeking concealment from God and or a choice of death over exile and suffering. This is the hubris of vulnerability. When this text is quoted by Yeshua as recorded in Luke’s Gospel (23:30) and repeated in the Revelation to John (6:16), it refers to wilfully unrepentant people. People who, even when faced with the reality that it is their sin and rejection of God that has brought their suffering, nonetheless refuse to repent and instead invoke concealment and death, calling on created things to hide and or kill them rather than crying out to the Creator for deliverance.
Ref. Isaiah 2:10; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16
9 Miymeiy From the days of ha-Givah the Gibeah (hill) chatata you have sinned, missed the mark Yisrael; sham there amadu they remain! Lo-tasiygeim Will it not reach them bagivah in Gibeah, milchamah the battle al-beneiy alvah against the sons of injustice?
“Gibeah” may refer to Gibeah of Benjamin (Judges 19) and the abhorrent actions of that tribe regarding the concubine/wife of a Levite from Ephraim. Alternatively it may refer to Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 15) where Israel rebelled against the words of the prophet Samuel and demanded a king like those who ruled the other nations.
While the rebellion against God’s Kingship is wicked and a root of further rebellion, it seems more likely that Gibeah of Benjamin is meant because a process of descent into deep corruption resulting in vile sin is inferred by the context and qualifying language. It was said of the vile nature of the sin in Gibeah Benjamin, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt.” Some liken the sin of the men of Benjamin (Judges 19) to that of the men of Sodom (Genesis 19). This adds weight to my interpretation.
“there they remain.” Israel has remained in the place (sham), both physical and spiritual, of their missing the mark of God’s Instruction. In short, they have wilfully chosen to remain in their sin.
“Will it not reach them in Gibeah, the battle against the sons of injustice?” The spiritual battle against injustice will come against the sons of injustice, thus the sons of the northern tribes who have sown poison (v. 4) will reap poisoned fruit.
10 Beavatiy In My desire, ve’esoreim I will discipline them; veusefu and gather aleihem upon them amiym the peoples be’aseram in binding lishteiy them twice eiynotam their torture onotam glowing. Alt. punished twofold for their double crime.
HaShem desires to discipline Israel for her good. The twofold punishment of exile (Assyria) upon exile (Babylon). The punishment is just and the outcome is repentance (returning).
The binding of the northern tribes can also be seen as pretext to the ploughing metaphor which follows.
“Since Hosea compares them to a heifer as stated further: “Ephraim is a goaded heifer,” he, therefore, compared their chastisement to a cow, which they tire with plowing and they bind it to the yoke of the plowshare, and the pegs of the yoke penetrate it, [i.e., they penetrate the yoke,] one on this side and one on that side, next to the ox’s two eyes. And so did Jonathan render: as one hinds a “padna” on its two eyes. “Padna” is a yoke of oxen.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:10
11 And Efrayim eglah a heifer melumadah taught, ohavtiy I love ladush to tread out (thresh), va’aniy and I avartiy I passed by al-tov tzavarah upon her good, lovely neck; arkiyv I will harness Efrayim, Y’hudah yacharosh will plough, yesaded-lo Yaakov will break up clods of earth for himself.
The opening phrasing speaks of God’s care for Ephraim (the northern kings and their dominion) teaching her, allowing her to feed while she trampled out the grain on the threshing floor.
“I passed by upon her good, lovely neck; I will harness Efrayim” The “good” neck of Ephraim’s younger days of training is made counterpoint to her stiff necked rebellion in her latter days. Her neck once good is now stiff/rebellious.
“I will harness Epharim, Judah will plow, Yaakov will break up clods of earth for himself.” This trifold naming unites all Israel. The order of the ploughing process is seen in each task associated with each named party. Ephraim (kings of the north, people of the north) are harnessed, Judah (southern kingdom, people of Judah and Benjamin) will plough to cover the seed, then, in the following season (after exile) all Israel together as Jacob will break up the hard ground left fallow by their exile. This is a text of prophetic hope for the soon to be punished people of God.
12 Ziru Sow lachem for yourselves, litzdakah to righteousness; kitzru reap lefiy from My mouth chesed kindness, practical love, faithfulness. Niyru lachem Break up your niyr fallow ground, ve’eit for its time lidrosh to seek, enquire of et-YHVH the particular Lord (Mercy) ad-yavo until He comes veyoreh and rains tzedek righteousness lachem on you all.
Mercy precedes judgement and is the fruit of discipline. Here, once again, YHVH offers an opportunity for true repentance, an opportunity for sowing righteousness and reaping kindness, an opportunity for enquiring of the LORD (Mercy) and receiving the cleansing rains of righteousness. Seeing the end from the beginning HaShem knows that Israel will not receive this until after her exile. This is why the final aspect of the order of ploughing in the previous verse denotes the breaking of hard ground following its many years of being left fallow.
Rashi understands this as an admonishment to turn to Torah observance, however, Torah observance does not bear the seed of righteousness, rather godly righteousness bears the fruit of right action which is approved by the Torah, that is, when measured against Torah righteousness is seen as holy (set apart).
Righteousness sown in God enquires of God and thus reaps righteousness from God. Messiah in us outworks righteousness. Therefore, we are not Torah keepers, rather God keeps us through the righteous One (the King Messiah), Who is the Goal of Torah (Romans 10:4). All that we do for God is idolatry (God needs nothing done for Him, nor are we capable of doing anything without Him), all that we do from God is righteousness. Not human righteousness (which God refers to as being like used menstrual cloth [Isaiah 64:6]) but the righteousness of God.
13 Charashtem-resha You have ploughed, engraved wickedness, avlatah injustice ketzartem you have reaped achaltem, you have eaten periy-chachash fruit of deception. Kiy Because vatachta you trusted vedarkecha in your way, bero in great numbers giboreycha of your mighty men (warriors),
Israel, the northern tribes had engraved their soil, both literal and metaphorical, with wickedness and injustice and had therefore deceived themselves. Knowing that the Torah and Prophets say otherwise, they nonetheless concluded that the strength of their own armies was more trustworthy than God’s strength.
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Who goes warring.” -Zechariah 4:6b (Author’s translation)
14 Vekam And raise shaon an uproar be’amecha among your people, vechol-mivtzareycha and all your fortified cities yushad will be ruined, keshod like Shalmaneser (Shalman: fire worshipper) destroyed Beiyt-arbel (house of God’s ambush) beyom in the day milchamah of battle, eim al-baniym mothers upon children rutashah torn to pieces.
The uproar among the people is understood by Yarchi, Rashi and others as an alarm calling out “Flee, flee!”
“Your fortified cities” This means that what is to come will affect both the vulnerable unwalled towns and the fortified cities (like those Judah trusted in). This is a prophecy of all out invasion, one that came soon after at the hand of the Assyrian Empire.
“Beit Arbel” Is a city of the Kinneret (Galilee) region (Antiqu. l. 12. c. 11. sect. 1. & l. 14. c. 15. sect. 4. In Vita sua, sect. 69. p. 922, 934.), situated between Sipphore and Tiberias (Yuchasin, fol. 65. 1.).
“mothers upon children torn to pieces” This horrific language denotes the most heinous of wartime acts which leaves the conquered devoid of their women and children. This imagery is commonly used in Scripture 2 Kings 8:12; Isaiah 13:16; Nahum 3:10; Psalms 137:9; Hosea 14:1.
15 Kachah So asah it will be done lachem to you all at Beiyt-el (house of God/Judge) mipeneiy from the face of your ra’at evil ra’atchem evils. Alt. [of your great wickedness.] Bashachar In the dawn nidmoh nidmah cut off, destroyed will be melekh a king of Yisrael.
This horror will come against all who, at a location named for Jacob’s (Israel) intimate connection with God (Bethel: House of God), had brought evil forth unto evil multiplied. Thus, once again, the self-harming idolatry of evil is emphasised. Bethel (Beth Aven) was home to one of the two calf idols set up by the first king of the northern tribes Jeroboam I.
“The calf in Bethel has brought about all this retribution upon you.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:15
“In the dawn” This makes the destruction of the northern tribes immanent. Both Hoshea (not the prophet) the last king of the northern tribes, and the kingdom itself will be cut off.
As tragic as this is, there is also the future hope in the Greater Son of David, that King of Judah Who will reign over all the tribes of Israel. Therefore, the permanent end of the kingship of the north is a sign pointing to the redemption for all Israel through the King Messiah born of the Davidic line of Judah.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
The comfort of the revelation of fearless existence follows the poetic description of the choosing, conceiving and forming of the people of Israel. We do well to remember that these words apply to Israel as a nation, and while there is a spiritual principle here that can be applied to every believer, it is only so based on the plain application to the nation of Israel, ethnic, religious, chosen.
Isa 44:1 And now shema hear, listen, receive, understand, Yaakov (follower, Jacob) avdiy My servant; and Yisrael (overcome in God, Israel), whom I have chosen:
This chapter begins with the familiar refrain identifying Israel’s journey from inception to service and culminating in her chosen identity. Following the explanation of Israel’s terrible plight in the previous chapter the prophet now conveys a message of unsurpassed blessing. Therefore, “Listen carefully Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen”.
Isa 44:2 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Who osecha (from asah) fashioned you, ve’yotzer and formed (framed, bound together) you from the womb, who will help you; “Al tiyra No fear, Yaakov (follower, Jacob), avdiy My servant; and you, Yeshurun (upright, lawful, smooth, integrity), whom barchatiy I have chosen (elected, decided for).
The comfort of the revelation of fearless existence follows the poetic description of the choosing, conceiving and forming of the people of Israel. We do well to remember that these words apply to Israel as a nation, and while there is a spiritual principal here that can be applied to every believer, it is only so based on the plain application to the nation of Israel, ethnic, religious, chosen.
God is revealed as “Mercy, Helper, Creator, Artisan” and the One through Whom Israel is called Yeshurun “Upright One”.
The title Yeshurun is used elsewhere only three times (Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26). The first of the three other instances, like the present example, places the “Upright One” in a state of unrighteousness. The second reference alludes to Moses as king in Yeshurun and the third proclaims the uniqueness of the God of Yeshurun, Who has no equal. Collecting these four occurrences of the name Yeshurun, we’re able to conclude that her uprightness is the state in which God sees her complete outside of circumstance and through His redemptive work. She is not upright of her own accord, nor have her actions made her that way, to the contrary, it is because God has chosen her that He has made certain of her redemption. This is the very essence of the Gospel of our King Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 44:3 For I will pour mayim water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour ruachiy My Spirit upon your seed (progeny, offspring), u’virchatiy and My blessing upon your offspring:
The poetic form of repetition connects the figure of water poured onto dry ground to the Spirit of God poured out upon the seed of Israel. Both the water and the Spirit bear the fruit of blessing, physical and spiritual.
The Hebrew mayim even in its singular form, denotes an intensity found in plural use. Therefore, water carries the sense of waters.
The water is first poured out upon the thirsty, this with the purpose of satisfying the thirst of the desperately repentant. Subsequently the water floods the dry ground, something that results in sweeping away the transient layer of top soil. To this day in Israel’s desert region, when there is a torrential rainfall, flooding and mudslides cause great damage in the Negev and elsewhere, sometimes resulting in the deaths of residents and hikers caught in the deluge. Therefore, there is at least a sense in which the present verse reveals the Spirit of God as a double edged sword bringing deliverance and life to the repentant while sweeping away those who continue to wander from the truth.
“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water;” -Psalm 63:1
Isa 44:4 And they will spring up in the midst of grass, as willows in the water courses (streams, irrigation etc.)
The seed of Israel will spring up in the midst of a revived and green land, both literally and figuratively. Like the willows that grow in water ways with access to a constant supply of water, so too Israel’s progeny will grow immersed in the constant supply of God’s Spirit.
Isa 44:5 Zeh This one will yomar say, “to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) ani I am;” ve’zeh and this one will yikra call (proclaim) besheim-Yaakov in the name of Jacob (follower); and ve’zeh and this one will yichtov inscribe his hand to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), u’vesheim and in the name of Yisrael (Israel, overcome in God) ye’khaneh a (future) title (actionable identity).
Each of the titles alluded to in this verse are chosen by individuals from among the people of Israel to show the desire of each one to be identified as belonging to the God of Israel. Thus, this verse is revealing the fact that in the future Israel will return to God both individually and corporately, each one delighting in the uniqueness of a personal and national identity found only in the redemptive work of God through the Messiah.
“To HaShem I am.” In other words, “I belong to HaShem” or, “I belong to Mercy”. This is similar to the identifying mark on the forehead plate of the High Priest of Israel, Kadosh YHVH, “Holy unto HaShem” or, “Holy, set apart to Mercy”. Thus in some sense there is a connection to the priesthood of the nation of Israel.
“In the name of Jacob”. In other words, “I’m proud to be called a Jew” or, “I’m unashamed of the fact that I’m a follower of God”.
“Inscribe his hand to HaShem.” To inscribe one’s hand is to commit all action to that which is inscribed upon it. Thus, this is an act of devotion to God and to a life of service in His kingdom. This last identifier is followed by “In the name of Israel yet to be titled.” This is not a “surname” in the traditional English sense, rather the Hebrew prefix “ye” denotes something yet future and “Khaneh” refers to a title or secondary name. Therefore, it is an affirmation of Israel’s continued ethnic religious identity and a restating of her “overcoming in God”. Thus, her willingness to inscribe her actions to HaShem and her subsequent ministry as the servant of God will affirm her chosen status and reveal her completeness as Yeshurun, the beloved and upright one of God. Made upright through His redemptive work.
I have chosen to explain the so called “surname” in terms of “actionable identity”.
Isa 44:6 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Melekh-Yisrael the King of Israel, ve’goalo and his (kinsman) redeemer HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) tzeva’ot who goes warring (of hosts); “Ani I am rishon first, va’ani and I am acharon last (lasting); and beside me (without me) eiyn elohiym there is no god (there are no gods/judges).”
Corresponding to the titles adopted by Israel in verse 5 are the titles of HaShem in verse 6:
Verse 5 Verse 6
Belonging to Hashem Israel is subject to the King of Mercy. Jacob the follower finds redemption in a kinsman. Having been redeemed Israel is inscribed with freedom and Hashem goes to war for her. Israel chosen before creation by the One God, first and lasting.
Iben Ezra makes a correlation between Israel in the land and the title King of Israel: likewise he connects Israel’s exile with the title Redeemer.
Isa 44:7 And who, cha’moniy is like Me, who will call, and will declare it, and set it in order for Me, since I appointed am-olam a people forever (in worlds perpetual)? and the coming things, and that which will come, let them show.
“Am-olam (A people forever)” is applied elsewhere to those who have already gone on to Sheol (holding place of the departed). The epithet is evidence of the ancient Jewish understanding of the everlasting nature of the soul.
The God of Israel is like no other. The rhetorical questions posed expose the inability of the false gods and idols of Israel to accurately predict the future or establish Israel as a people.
Isa 44:8 “Al-tifchadu Don’t tremble (dread), ve’al-tirhu and don’t be afraid: have I not told you me’az from that time? and I have declared it! And you are certainly eidaiy My witnesses. Is there a god beside (without) Me? And, there is no tzur rock; I know not any.”
HaShem directs Israel to neither tremble or be afraid of that which He has foretold through His prophet Isaiah: the catastrophe coming on the nations at the hand of Cyrus. Thus, as Israel watches nation after nation crumble along with their deaf, dumb and incompetent idols, Israel is to rest in the knowledge that her God had foreseen and planned all these things (including her exile) for her ultimate benefit.
God reminds Israel that He has chosen her to bear witness of His redemptive wonders, and that He is her Rock (tzur: an immovable cliff face).
Isa 44:9 They that form an idol are all of them tohu formless; and their coveted things will not profit; and they are their own witnesses; don’t see, and don’t know; so that they may be ashamed. Isa 44:10 Who has formed el a god, or forged a graven image, which profits nothing?
Verses 9 through 20 explain the illogic and folly of idolatry.
We note that the opening phrase calls the idol maker “formless”. The verse goes on to explain that lusting after things (Something Rav Shaul called “the love of earthly wealth [mammon]”), bears no fruit. In counter distinction to Israel, who are chosen witnesses to God’s redemptive wonders, those who fashion idols and pursue worldly wealth are invalid witnesses because they testify to their own deeds. Added to this, they are blind and ignorant, giving eye witness accounts of what they can’t see and applying knowledge they haven’t learned. All this is allowed by God in order to bring them to a point of shame and repentance.
“For the love of worldly wealth is the root of all evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1Timothy 6:10
The first of the idols of verses 9-20 is forged. Subsequently hammered idols and wooden idols are also mentioned in order to cover the variety of idols created and worshipped by the surrounding nations.
Isa 44:11 Hein Now, behold, all chaveirav his companions will be ashamed: and the workmen, they are me’adam from humanity: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they will fear, and they will be ashamed together.
Fellow idol makers stand together and will likewise be ashamed of their futile work. Every idol maker described is a human being me’adam “from a man, from humanity”. They will fear and be ashamed together when they realize their error. The question remains, “Will they repent?”
Isa 44:12 The shaper with the axe both works in the coals, and fashions with hammers, and works with the strength of his arms: also, he gets hungry, and his strength fails: he drinks no water, and is faint.
This same ironical language is used in Jeremiah 10:3 to expose the futility of the human propensity for creating our own gods using created things and expending our energy to the point of exhaustion in order to complete something which will never complete us.
Isa 44:13 The cutter of eitziym trees stretches out his ruler; he marks out with a line; he fashions with planes, and he marks it out with the compass, and makes the figure of iysh a man, ke’tiferet according to the beauty, glory, adornment of adam humanity (a man); la’shevet to dwell in bayt a house.
Here the idol made of wood from the forest is made in the likeness of a man “iysh”, and the Hebrew “iysh” is connected to the Hebrew “eish” meaning “fire”. Thus, the irony of the same wood used to make the idol being burned in fire (v.15-16).
The second descriptor adam, meaning man or humanity, is thought by some to distinguish between iysh man and adam woman (human form). The Targum follows this understanding:
“according to the praise of a woman;'' -Targum Yonatan
Yarchi also understands the Hebrew text this way:
“this is a woman, who is the glory of her husband;''
If this is correct, both male and female idols are being alluded to in their distinct roles as symbolic governors of the land (male) and the home (female). Hence the Hebrew bayt (house) in reference to the adorned adam “dwelling in bayt”.
Isa 44:14 He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and is strengthened among the trees of the forest: he plants an ash, and the rain brings nourishment.
All the trees mentioned here are pleasant to look at and good for fuel but none bear fruit. Thus the spiritual truth that idolatry is fruitless, a self-defeating act that offers no progeny.
Isa 44:15 Then it becomes fuel for a man to burn: for he will take from them, and warm himself; he kindles it, and bakes bread; he makes el a god, and worships it; he fashions an idol, and prostrates before it.
The irony here goes beyond the simple lack of logic involved in worshipping something one uses for fuel. The wood born of creation is, like the human being himself, a created thing. This wood is created for the purpose of warming the human being and for use in food preparation, all this being a gift from the Creator. Therefore, having enjoyed the gift of warmth and sustenance from God, the human being chooses to worship the gift instead of the giver. Some today in the Christian Church do the same, so enamoured are they by miracles and manifestations, that they have begun to worship the gifts of God rather than the Giver.
Isa 44:16 Half saraph He burns b’mo in eish fire; al-chetzyo upon half basar flesh yocheil he eats; he roasts the roast, and is satisfied: indeed, he warms himself, and says, heach “Now aha, I am warm, I have seen Ur the light:”
“Ur” is light of the fire (also the name of the city from which Abraham came), not fire as in the burning flames but the light that emanates from it. It is spelled the same way as the uncreated light of the beginning “Or”. This is therefore, equivalent to the exclamation of epiphany made in colloquial English, “I have seen the light.” However, in this context the worshipper of an idol has not seen “The Light”, rather he has seen a false “light” that is born of darkness. Thus, he blasphemes the true “Light” by likening Him to the demonic light of the wood born idol.
Isa 44:17 And the remainder he makes a god, his graven image: he prostrates himself before it, and worships it, and prays to it, and says, “Deliver me; for you are eiliy my god.”
Here the idol is called an el “god”. Thus, while inanimate objects have no power of their own, none the less, spiritual entities are often associated with them and dwell near them in order to deceive and bind idolaters.
“And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,” -Psalm 106:36-37
“And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the demons, and for the calves which he had made.” -2 Chronicles 11:15
“What say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” -1 Corinthians 10:19-20
“The rest of humanity, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,” -Revelation 9:20
In the case of Israel, any one among the people of Israel who is asking a false god to “deliver” them is in direct opposition to the Deliverer of Israel, Hashem.
Isa 44:18 They have not yadeu known nor yaviynu discerned: for He has shut their eyes, so they cannot see; and livotam their hearts, so they cannot yashiyv turn.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” -Romans 1:18-25
Isa 44:19 And none yashiv turns back in li’bo his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned part of it in fire; certainly, also I have baked bread upon the coals from it; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and will I now make the remainder of it le’toeivah into an abomination (disgusting thing)? Will I prostrate myself before the stock of a tree?”
There is heartbreak in these words, “And none turns back”. HaShem longs for right relationship with these idolaters, and yet they resist His love. With incredulity the prophet describes the idolaters lack of ability to apply basic logic to the situation. Thus he quotes what he sees as the appropriate revelation of the situation, “I’ve made a god out of a tree, which I also used for warmth and food and now like a fool am I going to bow down to what’s left of it?”
Isa 44:20 He feeds on eipher ashes: a deceived leiv heart has turned him aside, so he can’t deliver nafsho his soul, nor say, “Is this not a lie in my right hand?”
The Hebrew eipher meaning ashes is also used figuratively to refer to a worthless practice. We note that it is the idolaters own deceived heart (core being) that has turned him away from God, and that he is unable to deliver his own soul, not even by simply recognizing that “this idol built with the strength of my right hand is a lie”.
Isa 44:21 “Zechor Remember these, Yaakov (follower, Jacob) and Yisrael (overcomes in God, Israel); for you are avdiy My servant: I have formed you; you are eved-liy My servant: you Yisrael (Israel), will not be forgotten by Me.”
Having explained the futility of idolatry the prophet now repeats the words of HaShem that began the chapter. HaShem implores Israel to remember the futility of the idolatrous practices that she herself has been engaged in and instead accept the role of witness to HaShem’s wonderous acts of deliverance and redemption.
All would do well to remember the promise of Hashem here:
“Israel will not be forgotten by Me!”
Isa 44:22 “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, peshaeicha your rebellion (transgressions) and, as a dark cloud, chatoteicha your sins (missing the mark): shuvah return to Me; for ge’altiycha (from goel, a kinsman) I have redeemed you.”
Ultimately it is Hashem’s desire that Israel return to Him in love. Having exposed the worthless practices of Israel and the surrounding nations He now offers forgiveness with open arms, through the redeeming act of blotting out the rebellion and sin of His chosen people. He reminds Israel that it is He Himself who has redeemed her as a kinsman redeemer redeems a family member.
Isa 44:23 Ranu He overcomes, shamayim you heavens; for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has done it: ha-riu give a blast (shout), you lowest parts of aretz land (earth): break forth hariym the mountains rinah in a ringing cry, O forest, and every tree therein: for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has ga’al redeemed Yaakov (Jacob), and in Yisrael (Israel) yitpa’ar adorned (glorified) himself.
We notice that for all the worthless uses of creation observed in the practice of idolatry there is a counterpoint here. The heavens which had given the rain for the growth of the trees (cut down to make idols) are now called upon to witness the spiritual overcoming of Israel in the One true God HaShem. The land and soil beneath which had provided nutrients for the trees from which the idols were made is now called on to witness the works of God, and the mountains on which the idols were worshipped (at the high places) are called on to give a ringing cry along with the trees themselves, announcing that HaShem has redeemed Jacob and has adorned Himself in Israel with glory: all this in direct opposition to the adorning of the idolatrous humanoid figures of verse 13.
Creation celebrates the redemption of humanity and the renewal of all things:
“For the earnest expectation of created thing waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the created thing was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the created thing itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” -Romans 8:19-23
Isa 44:24 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), go’alecha your redeemer, and He that yotzercha formed (bound together) you from the womb, “I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) that oseh makes all things; that stretches forth the shamayim heavens levadiy Myself; and spreads abroad ha’aretz the earth (land) water;”
HaShem is affirmed again as Kinsman Redeemer, Creator and the One intimately involved in Israel being knitted together from her conception. He alone is Creator of the universe, and it is He alone Who has provided the waters of the heavens to bring life to the soil of the earth, providing sustenance to His creation.
Isa 44:25 That frustrates otot the signs (omens) of the badiym liars, and makes diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish;
HaShem intentionally frustrates the omens offered by spiritualists and mediums, false prophets and Sooth Sayers. Specifically badiym “Babbling liars” and those who consult spirits and pretend to control demonic forces. Those who think themselves wise are turned back and made to look foolish because their wisdom is of men and not of God.
Isa 44:26 Me’kiym Continually raising de’var a word avdo of His servant, and the counsel of His messengers yashliym makes peace; Who says to Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace, Jerusalem), “You will be inhabited;” and to the cities of Yehudah (praise, Judah), “You will be built, and I will raise up the decayed places there:”
“Me’kiym” is a contraction made up of “me” from, and “kum” arise, and in this plural form denotes a continual arising of something. In this case that something is “de’var” a word for God’s servant (singular) and a counsel that comes from His messengers “malachaiv” (angels, prophets etc). His servant Isaiah brings a word (Messiah) and that word (Messiah) is also imparted through the prophets and messengers of God to Israel. He promises to restore Jerusalem (literally and figuratively), and the cities of Judah. He promises to rebuild the people of Israel and the decayed land of her idolatrous practices.
Isa 44:27 Who says latzulah to the deep (ocean), “Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers:”
This is an idiom referring to Sheol (in a figurative way). The deep (Sheol), will one day be dried up (emptied), and the rivers of decay that result from death (fruit of sin) will no longer affect humanity.
Isa 44:28 Who says of Koresh Cyrus (you possess the furnace), “Roiy My shepherd, and all that I desire, yashliym makes peace:” even saying to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), “You will be built; and to the temple, your foundation will be laid (established).”
“Koresh” Cyrus, is mentioned by name here some 150 years before his birth. There can be no doubt that the God of Israel knows the end from the beginning.
Cyrus is called “My Shepherd” by HaShem because HaShem has appointed him to bring discipline to Israel and restore her again to the land of Israel following her exile. In fact, it was to be Cyrus who issued the decree for the Jews of Persia to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1 through 3; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
Josephus the Jewish historian of the first century CE (AD) writes that when Cyrus was made aware of this portion of the scroll of Isaiah, that he immediately decreed the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and gave them permission to rebuild the temple (Josephus Antiquities 11:2).
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,